Steroid injections (also known as corticosteroid injections) are types of anti-inflammatory medicines. They are used to treat a wide range of conditions such as joint pain, sciatica, arthritis and repetitive strain injury.
How do they work?
Corticosteroids are manufactured versions of hormones naturally produced by the adrenal glands. When corticosteroids are injected into a joint or muscle they can help relieve inflammation in a nearby part of the body, which can then reduce any pain and stiffness.
When steroids are given for the purpose of pain relief, they are often used in conjunction with a local anaesthetic called Lidocaine. This will provide immediate pain relief that lasts a few hours.
Common types of steroid
Common named examples of steroid injections include hydrocortisone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone.
A common injection called Depo-Medrone contains the active ingredient of methylprednisolone. This is one of the steroids commonly used in the reduction of inflammation in various areas of the body.
It works by acting within cells to prevent the release of certain chemicals involved in reducing immune and allergic reactions. The use of the Depo-Medrone injection can, as a result, treat a number of disease states; including severe allergic reactions and inflammation from arthritis.
Depo-Medrone is often prescribed when methylprednisolone tablets cannot be taken by mouth. These injections can only be performed by healthcare professionals and effects can last anything upward of two weeks. If the injection effects wear out, then the injection can be repeated.
Benefits of steroid injections
Corticosteroid injections, in general, are well tolerated by the body and do not cause the typical side-effects seen by taking oral steroids, or anabolic steroids.
Injections also more effectively treat joint inflammation, which reduces pain and improves joint function.
Side effects of steroids
The side effects of steroid injections often differ depending on the area of the body they are treating. Side effects of injections to the joints (an intra-articular injection), muscles (an intramuscular injection), or spine (an epidural injection) and rare, but can include:
- Pain and discomfort for a few days in the injected area
- Temporary bruising or collection of blood under the skin
- A flushed complexion
- An infection, causing redness swelling and pain
- Paler skin at the injected area
- Loss of fat at the injected area
- A rise in blood sugar (more likely for diabetes sufferers)
- Risk of tendon rupture
Can I have steroid injections?
Most people can have steroid injections. However, a healthcare professional should always be consulted before treatment and you should inform them if you have experienced any of the following:
- Had a steroid injection in the last few weeks. You usually need to wait 6
weeks between injections
- Have had an allergic reaction to local anaesthetic previously
- Have an infection or soon to have any vaccinations
- Are pregnant, breast feeding or trying to fall pregnant
- Have any other pre-existing conditions
- Are taking any other forms of medication
- Taking warfarin or other blood thinning medication.